Product photography on ecommerce sites or how to be different online

Dear BrainFuel,
Is it possible to be different online in the ecommerce world?

Yes Virginia, it’s still easy to be different online. All it takes is good photography and a nice looking site.

I am constantly amazed by the quality of product photography online. It’s despicable. Someone could literally make a business out of fixing the poor product photography and post-editing on ecommerce sites.

But nobody would hire that person because apparently nobody cares.

Why is it that people will pay thousands upon thousands of dollars for ecommerce web site creation yet they won’t spend a nickel on good photography?

Why can’t people see that a poor product photo says more than words about the quality of a product? Why don’t they see that you can charge more for premium products and that a premium product is all about product perception?

I’ve been involved with far to many ecommerce projects where we designed a great looking site only to have the client upload the worst product imagery. It’s depressing.

And don’t tell me we’re talking about cost here. Because there are very good digital cameras in the sub $500 market these days and it doesn’t take much to get a good photo. Even with post editing in Photoshop it is possible to turn a medium quality photo into a stunning product shot.

So yes Virginia, it is possible. Just nobody does it.

15 responses to “Product photography on ecommerce sites or how to be different online”

  1. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did some work for a custom homebuilder (a couple of them, actually) who were absolutely insane about the quality of their photography.

  2. In the inital development of a sizeable online shop, getting good photography can be pretty time consuming (read: costly). It can be a tempting cost-saving measure when they are shelling ou a lot of dough on development and production.

    I feel like many of the people who pinch pennies on getting decent product shots are of the mindset that it’s something “that we can fix later”. The problem is that for most of those things later never comes.

  3. Actually, I have an experience with that as well. I did some work with a promotional marketing company that was responsible for the e-comm marketing of this corporation’s items.

    Shee too, was insane about the quality of the photography to the point it actually became a hinderence to the completion of the job.

    For instance, a logo shirt had to be folded “exactly” right, with no wringles, and the logo spaced just right from the edges of the shirt. We’d get to that, and then she wanted the shirt modeled. We had live models which worked for a while, the we had to do the mannequins.

    Bottom line, she was a perfectionist that was never satisified. We went through this with every item sold on the site, from corporate shirts to frisbees. It was ridiculous.

    Eventually the corporation, who was spending upwards of 6 figures for this, essentially told this woman they didn’t really care that much about the photo quality. They just wanted the item available for purchase.

    Their point? Everyone knows what a red pencil looks like and everyone is familiar with our logo. Get it online so we can sell it now.

  4. I think it’s actually a very good point by Chris.
    It doesn’t take that much to have good photos for your products.
    I actually want to start a site, kind of like this one… Does anyone have suggestion as far as who to host with, how many e-mail accounts to get, etc.? I just want to register a domain name for now and have decent amount of space, probably about 10 gigs. Any advice on how it’s all done and what to look for, based on your experience in the field?

  5. Hi,
    i think the really best and easiest way is to have one photography company which takes care of all photography needs. I think it is truely amusing how much time people spend on shooting photos themselves! Why not leave the photography to the Pro’s and concentrate on your core business?!

  6. “Someone could literally make a business out of fixing the poor product photography and post-editing on ecommerce sites”

    You could be on to something there! We set up for the very reasons you mention. Professional product photography can make such a difference, and it’s so refreshing to hear someone agree so strongly!

  7. I went into an ISoldIt store which had only been open for about 5 weeks and I couldn’t believe the huge, gigantic, enormous backlog of products to be sold on eBay that they had built up in those 5 weeks. The reason I went in was to ask them if they would do a few product shots for me for my website. The idea struck me then that just doing product shots for people selling things on the internet could be an entire industry unto itself. It certainly got my creative juices flowing.

  8. So, how exactly does one do proper product photography? I agree that it makes all the difference in the world. I sell baby stuff (i.e. quilts, bibs, hats). I have many items to photograph, and my inventory often changes. I’d like to be able to figure out how to do it myself, but I’m not sure where to start. All I have is a digital camera.

  9. My main concern is that you can’t guarantee every page of your website will be included in the SERPs. Considering I’m constantly adding new products to my company’s website, I need to be sure that customers can find them as soon as possible.

  10. My question is this, how many different types of products, landscape, people, still life or what ever you have in your portfolio does it take until someone sees that you know how to take a good/great photo? If you want to get a job photographing custom homes for example, and you show small product and you have had no “official” jobs/sample shots as an architectural photographer, you don’t get hired, because you don’t have any houses in your portfolio. Can anyone see beyond the item itself and see the composition, lighting, angle, etc? This really bugs me, I can see if you are submitting to architectural digest for example you want fantastic shots of custom homes, lighting, amazing subjects. Just like with models, the more beautiful they are even with average photography you can get a nice result.
    If someone takes a great shot of a piece of electronics for example and that’s all they have to show, you take the work on it’s merits I’d say you gotta give the photographer a shot even if they don’t have homes in their portfolio, where am I wrong here?

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